January 31, 2017 -- This is actually a remake of a remake, since the original 1960 “Magnificent Seven,” directed by John Sturges, was a remake, reimagining, or whatever, of Akira Kurosawa's classic “Seven Samurai” (1954). Usually, remakes are inferior, but here are two remakes that stand on their own as entertaining movies, maybe even classics, in their own right.
The 1960 film featured some of Hollywood's top stars from an earlier generation, like Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Eli Wallach and Charles Bronson. This new film isn't like that. It has only two big stars, Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. But the big difference in this new version of the story is the diversity of the cast. It is like one of those old World War II movies that has a small band of soldiers representing a broad cross section of America.
Every good movie needs a good villain and Peter Sarsgaard (“Blue Jasmine”) is the suitably evil villain of this story, playing Bartholomew Bogue, a ruthless miner who intends to drive the settlers out of the valley where he is mining for gold. He and his army of gunslingers burn down the church and murder citizens to get their way.
The widow of one of Bogue's victims, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett of “The Girl on the Train”) heads off to another town looking for a gunslinger who will bring justice to her town. She finds Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington of “The Equalizer”) a deadly warrant officer who seems to act a lot like a bounty hunter. She tries to recruit him to clean up the town, but he is not interested in the job until he hears the name Bogue. He says, “Bartholomew Bogue?” Suddenly, he is interested in the job.
Chisolm rounds up a team, composed of some people who are good with guns and knives, quick draw card sharp Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt of “Guardians of the Galaxy”) sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke of “Boyhood”) knife-thrower Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), a deadly Mexican bandit, Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and a legendary mountain man, Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio of “Jurassic World”). Along the way, the group crosses paths with a Comanche warrior, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier of “Wind River”) who agrees to join them.
So here you have a team composed of a real cross section of America, like the Avengers, coming together with ordinary towns people, and some disgruntled miners who don't like working for Bogue, banding together to fight a corrupt, murdering capitalist. Now what could be more satisfying than that?
Naturally, there is plenty of wonderful western scenery, lots of action, and even a Gattling Gun for good measure. The people turn the town into a big trap with trenches, barricades, fire and dynamite. Bogue arrives with an army of gunfighters. When the battle comes, it is long and bloody. At the end, we find out why Sam Chisolm decided to fight this battle for people he did not know.
This isn't just a remake, it is a straight up old-fashioned Western that stands on its own. It is very well acted and the production values are first rate. The direction by the underrated Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) is spot on. This is a near perfect genre film that did a respectable $93 million domestic business (number 32 for the year, ahead of such movies as “Hacksaw Ridge” and “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”) showing that Westerns aren't dead. Westerns are an enduring American tradition that continues. This film rates a B.
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